According to the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Heavy-Duty Truck Customer Satisfaction Study, the percentage of Class 8 truck owners who say they will definitely buy or lease a new truck in the next 12 months has hit the lowest level since 2002.

Twenty-five percent of Class 8 truck owners said they will definitely purchase or lease a new truck in the next year, down from 41% in 2006, J.D. Power said. In addition, the number of owners who said they intended to increase the size of their fleet fell from 63% to 54%.

The study is based on responses from 2,692 primary maintainers of two-year-old Class 8 heavy-duty trucks, J.D. Power said. The study was fielded in April and May 2008.

“The low rate of purchase intent among truck owners suggests that industry-wide sales may not experience a quick rebound,” said Brian Etchells, senior research manager of the commercial vehicles practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “Many factors—in addition to the pre-buy and new emission technology—could be playing a role in the current sales slump.

“With the poor economic climate and rising fuel costs, both owner-operators and fleets are struggling to stay profitable,” Etchells added. “Thus, it has never been more important for manufacturers to provide trucks that experience little to no downtime, have low maintenance and ownership costs and provide the performance that drivers demand.”However, earlier projections of 2009 pre-buying were not nearly as negative as the J.D. Power poll suggests.

A panel of four leading trucking industry analysts speaking at the HDMA Heavy Duty Dialogue 2008 earlier this year predicted Class 8 sales in 2009 to be between 290,000 and 368,700, a significant increase from 2007 and 2008 numbers.

“It’s hard to imagine that people hanging onto a two-year old truck are not going to buy one in 2009,” Stephen Latin-Kasper, market data & research director for the National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA), told FleetOwner.

“As far as buying a new truck in the next 12 months is concerned, you’re talking about another pre-buy year in 2009, so while the first and second quarter may be smaller than 2006, it is still a pre-buy year,” Latin-Kasper added.

The J.D. Power study also measured the satisfaction of primary maintainers of two-year-old Class 8 trucks in both over-the-road and vocational segments by examining performance, quality, warranty and cost of ownership.

Kenworth ranks highest in the over-the-road segment for the fourth consecutive year and the vocational segment for the second straight year, J.D. Power said. Kenworth was followed by Freightliner in the over-the-road segment and Western Star in the vocational segment. Mack Trucks ranked highest in customer satisfaction with dealer service, followed by Kenworth and Sterling, J.D. Power said.

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